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Shocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip

Shocking summit with Putin caps off Trump’s turbulent Europe trip
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE capped off a tumultuous week abroad with a message: “Witch hunt.”

That’s how he ended his joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a recitation of his familiar refrain against the federal probe into Moscow’s interference in the 2016 presidential election and its possible connection to the Trump campaign.

The summit in Helsinki at which Trump refused to denounce Russia’s election meddling was the culmination of a turbulent trip that also saw Trump roil NATO allies in Brussels and undercut the British prime minister on her home turf.

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Here’s a look back at Trump’s wild European ride.


Tuesday

Trump departed for Brussels, having spent the days leading up to the NATO summit railing against allies for not spending more on defense.

He kept up the criticism aboard Air Force One, suggesting on Twitter that U.S. allies should reimburse the United States if they don’t meet the alliance’s defense spending goal.

NATO allies agreed in 2014 to spend 2 percent of their gross domestic product (GDP) on defense by 2024. The spending goals are for each country’s own defense budget, not payments to the alliance itself.

Wednesday

Once in Brussels, Trump wasted no time in chiding allies, kicking off the summit with a breakfast with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in which he blasted Germany for its defense spending and plans for a gas pipeline with Russia.

“Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline,” Trump said.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel shot back by drawing a contrast to the history of Soviet-controlled East Germany, where she grew up.

“I wanted to say that, because of current events, I have witnessed this myself, that a part of Germany was controlled by the Soviet Union. And I am very happy that we are today unified in freedom as the Federal Republic of Germany,” Merkel said in her arrival remarks at the summit.

In a closed-door meeting with NATO heads of state later that day, Trump floated increasing NATO members’ defense spending goal to 4 percent of GDP.

He later doubled down on his rhetoric in a tweet, asking “what good is NATO” and demanding allies increase spending immediately.

Thursday morning

On the second day of the NATO summit, allies held an emergency session on Trump’s spending demands.

During the meeting, Trump reportedly suggested the U.S. could “go it alone” if NATO doesn’t increase its spending goal.

As the rocky summit came to a close, Trump claimed victory, saying allies agreed to boost their spending, though he did not provide specifics on which countries agreed to increase spending, or by how much.

Others, though, suggested that allies simply reaffirmed their commitment to the 2 percent goal.

“So we have a commitment to spend 2 percent,” Stoltenberg said during a CNN interview, when pressed on the assertion that allies will go above that. He added that “there’s a sense of urgency when it comes to delivering on that commitment.”

Thursday evening

After Brussels, it was off to England. There, Trump was greeted with pomp and circumstance at Blenheim Palace — including a performance from a British military marching band wearing traditional bearskin hats — as part of a gala dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May.

But the celebratory mood was dashed when, during dinner, the British tabloid The Sun published an explosive interview with Trump.

Trump told the publication May’s plans for Great Britain to have a “soft” exit from the European Union could “kill” any future U.S.-U.K. trade deal and said Boris Johnson, May’s chief political rival who recently resigned as foreign secretary over her Brexit plans, would “make a great prime minister.”

During the interview, Trump also echoed language used by white nationalists in saying that Europe is “losing” its culture because of refugees and immigrants.

Friday 

Trump held meetings with May at her Chequers estate as anti-Trump protests in London drew thousands, including the flight of the much-discussed “Trump baby” blimp.

In seeking to do damage control following The Sun interview, Trump heaped praise on May as a “very smart, very tough, very capable person” and said he is fine with however she wants to proceed with Brexit.

But Trump also stood by many of the comments he made to The Sun, including his belief that Johnson would make a great prime minister.

Trump also met with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle, where a video of him awkwardly cutting off the 92-year-old monarch while they walked went viral online.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most consequential development ahead of Trump’s summit with Putin happened back in the U.S.: Mueller’s indictment of 12 Russian military intelligence officers accused of hacking a number of Democratic officials and entities during the 2016 presidential race.

The indictments, announced on Friday, upped pressure on Trump to address the election interference directly with Putin and prompted lawmakers from both parties to call for Trump to cancel the summit.

Trump, however, did not comment on the indictments himself that day and pressed on with the summit.

Saturday

Trump spent the day at his Turnberry resort in Scotland, where he was greeted by more protesters.

Trump said on Twitter that he was spending his time at Turnberry with “two days of meetings, calls and hopefully, some golf,” which he added is his “primary form of exercise.”

He also took time to get in shots at CNN and former President Obama. In responding to Friday’s indictments, Trump blamed his predecessor.

“The stories you heard about the 12 Russians yesterday took place during the Obama Administration, not the Trump Administration. Why didn’t they do something about it, especially when it was reported that President Obama was informed by the FBI in September, before the Election?” he tweeted.

Sunday

Trump left Scotland on Sunday afternoon to head to Helsinki for his summit with Putin.

As he traveled to the meeting with Putin, who has been accused of ordering the murders of journalists who disagree with him, Trump called the media the “enemy of the people.”

“Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn’t good enough — that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition! Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct!” he wrote in part.

Interviews broadcast Sunday also set the tone for the summit, with Trump telling CBS that he had “low expectations” for the meeting, as well as labeling the European Union, which includes many NATO allies, a “foe.”

Monday

The meeting between Trump and Putin kicked off awkwardly, as Putin, notorious for showing up late to meetings with world leaders in what some see as a deliberate effort to throw them off balance, arrived about 35 minutes late.

Ahead of Trump and Putin’s one-on-one meeting, Trump said he thought they would “end up having an extraordinary relationship.”

The one-on-one, which the White House schedule said would last 90 minutes, lasted more than two hours. Afterward, Trump and Putin were joined by their aides for an expanded meeting and working lunch.

The summit came to a close with Trump and Putin’s joint press conference in which Putin denied meddling in the U.S. election, which Trump accepted.

“He just said it’s not Russia,” Trump said. “I will say this, I don’t see any reason why it would be.”

Trump also recapped his election win and reiterated his complaints that the FBI had not examined servers used by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonO'Rourke's rise raises hopes for Texas Dems down ballot Gabbard considering 2020 run: report Claiming 'spousal privilege' to stonewall Congress MORE.

The performance elicited criticism and bewilderment stateside on both sides of the aisle. Former Obama administration CIA Director John BrennanJohn Owen BrennanBrennan: Saudi denials of involvement in Khashoggi's disappearance 'ring hollow' Clinton's security clearance withdrawn at her request Mr. President, tear down the wall hiding those FISA abuses MORE went so far as to call it “nothing short of treasonous.”

On his way home, Trump pushed back against the criticism: “As I said today and many times before, ‘I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.’ However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past — as the world’s two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!” he tweeted.